There is Owning, and then there is Ownership

A pervasive issue in enterprise corporations is a problem of ownership. There is a lacking in ownership… and an abundance of owning.

Owning something indicates that you possess it. That you believe you have rights over the thing. When you take ownership of something, it is about taking responsibility. It means you care about the outcome of what is produced, and you will do what you can to create partnership and fulfillment to drive it to its best possible outcome.

Too often business units are concerned with owning things- rather than taking ownership.

I work in the world of digital, and particularly .com, so I will use those examples to make this greater business value point.

In every environment I’ve worked in I have watched different business units haggle and debate over who ‘owns’ various web pages. ‘We own this page, therefore we get to say what kind of content is on the page.’

When you think about the purpose of an Enterprise website, it is about the Enterprise. It is about allowing people to learn about your offerings, and to help people understand what your company is committed to. No single business unit can own that. I have watched time and again the process of creating an experience taking months to get into alignment, because at bottom, what’s really going on is everybody is busy arguing over who owns what.

Is it a shift in mindset from owning to ownership.

The transformation in company culture is about being responsible for making the best experience. It cannot be about tag lines; it must be about making sure the business proposition is fulfilled through the communication on the website.

Ownership means you are passionate and you care about outcomes. I would never want to diminish passion. But why I want to distinguish owning from ownership is because owning is territorial and ownership is about outcomes.

The other side of this equation is real teamwork. Sometimes in the attempt to encourage collaboration, what ends up happening is you just have people mulling ideas back and forth for months- basically creating the same outcome we see in the “owning” scenario.

In order for things to move forward there has to be Governance, and one group or unit has to be able to make the final decision on what direction is taken in a given piece of strategy. The SMEs for that aspect of strategy is best suited to be the decision-maker. The team who markets the solution is the decision-maker on the message, but the digital team should own the decision on site content and placement. Letting the best team for the decision lead that decision is exercising real teamwork.

A commitment to ownership means teams align to who will have the final say on a given level of the site. Once that’s established, teams need to look at the website as a means to communicate, and consider where customers are on their journey. Business units always have something to contribute at various levels in that communication, and it should be up to the user journey experts of your organization to decide where that best fits.

If you are taking ownership of the outcome, then you can actually listen from what will create the best outcome; rather than making sure your stuff is where you think it should be.

I know this all sounds like really obvious stuff. Theoretically speaking it is. If you were to ask any one individual if this is the right way to function, I’m sure they would agree. It is the day-to-day and the ‘quarterly milestone mindset’ that we all get into working inside of a business unit that can easily pull us away from this basic commitment. It creates focus on short-term outcomes, and ownership is lost.

This is where leadership really can make a huge difference.

The organization needs to be committed to reminding business units what the ultimate commitment is in its communication. The company wins when the company expresses itself in a unified and clear voice. We have to create workable Governance best practices to align decision-making, and we need to see communication in terms of ownership.

Owning is small. Owning means you own a set of 5 pages — and that is your world. Ownership is big. It means you own the company along with your co-workers, and you want to drive your company flourish and thrive.